310 posts categorized in "Wildlife"

By Jen Mannas, Naturalist

Every evening in a small neighborhood in Clinton, Washington a pair of Great Horned Owls can be heard amongst the trees calling to each other. One evening recently, the male decided to pick a very unfortunate spot to eat his freshly caught mouse.

He landed on a transformer on top of a power pole. This caught the eye of a resident on her nightly walk. She watched the owl peck at his meal when suddenly there was a loud bang and a flash of light. The next thing she saw was the owl falling to the ground.

She rushed over to see if he was still alive and found him sitting upright and very stunned. Concerned that he had some serious injuries she scooped him up in a towel and brought him to PAWS the next morning.


When the owl arrived at our Wildlife Hospital he didn’t have any obvious injuries but he was pale and dehydrated.

After the veterinarian team examined him they found that he had some bruising on his feet and possibly a detached retina. He was considered very lucky since there was no sign of an entry or exit point for the electrical charge he endured.

However, the main concern with this patient was how damaged his retina actually was and if he would be able to see well enough to hunt again. 

Eyesight as well as hearing are very important for owl survival. They must be able to hone in on their prey while hunting and accurately judge distance for striking.

Great Horned Owls primarily hunt from a perch at night and rely heavily on their eye sight to do so. They have extremely big eyes, even for an owl. Their pupils open widely and their retinas are predominately made of rods which help their eyes function effectively in low light.

The maximum effective hunting distance of a Great Horned Owl from an elevated perch is 300 feet. Pretty impressive don’t you think?

Luckily for this owl his eye injury was not serious. In just under 2 weeks he demonstrated to us that he was able to catch live prey, fly quietly and accurately, and was deemed ready for release.

We rode the evening ferry to Whidbey Island and returned him to the neighborhood he came from. Residents watched in excitement as he flew from his carrier and landed in a nearby tree where he called for his mate.

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Found a wild animal? Find out what to do and how PAWS can help.

Worried about power lines putting birds in your area at risk? Read about the Snohomish County Avian Protection Program.

By Jen Mannas, Naturalist

It’s that time of year again here in Seattle. The leaves are changing, there's a chill in the air, it’s getting dark earlier each day and the skies are full of birds heading to their wintering grounds.

This spectacular event is known as the fall migration. As the summer breeding season ends and the temperature drops birds begin their journey to warmer areas with more abundant food.

Washington State is part of the Pacific Flyway, which is one of the four major flyways in North America. The Pacific Flyway stretches over 4,000 miles south from the North Slope of Alaska to Western Mexico and over 1,000 miles between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.


Birds use this flyway as a super highway to their wintering grounds and have been doing so for thousands of years. It's estimated that at least one billion birds use the Pacific Flyway each fall comprising of over 350 different species.

During this migration hundreds of thousands of birds fly through the Seattle area on their way south. Many use this area as a stopover and will leave again when the weather gets colder.

However not all migratory birds go south for the winter.

Many species of seabirds and shorebirds breed in inland areas and will actually travel west to the coast to spend their winters.

Other species such as owls, who spend their summers up in the mountains, come down to lower altitudes during the winter where there is more food.

Pictured: Green Herons (top L) and Barn Swallows (top R) migrate south while Horned Grebes (bottom L) and Greater Yellowlegs (bottom R) migrate to Puget Sound from the interior of Washington.

Here at PAWS Wildlife Center we receive many of these migratory birds throughout the year. Some of them come in as orphaned baby birds in the spring and others as full grown adults who are sick or injured.

As with all of our patients, PAWS staff and volunteers try to treat and return these migratory birds back to the wild quickly. Releasing them before their natural migration ends is extremely important so they may join others of their kind on this great journey.

Join us on the frontline of wildlife care and rehabilitation - volunteer at PAWS.

Make a donation and help us continue providing a safe haven for wildlife at PAWS.

Found a wild animal? Find out what to do and how PAWS can help.

By Jen Mannas, Naturalist

On June 30th we received a small surprise at the Wildlife Center; a fluffy baby barn owl.


When he arrived he was small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, weighed just over 2 ounces, and his eyes were still closed.

The finder brought him to us after repeatedly trying to reunite him with his mother, who was sitting in a nest box made of steel beams 14 feet up in the top of a horse arena.

After the third fall from the nest, she decided to bring him to PAWS for help.

We typically try to reunite young raptors with their parents as quickly as possible, as it's always better for them to be raised by their parents. But, in some circumstances, this isn’t possible.

After talking to the finder about the nest site, it was clear that putting the owlet back again would not help his survival. The nest was not in a great location and another owlet had already fallen from the nest but did not survive.


So, we decided to care for this owlet with the intention to release him back into the wild as a sub-adult.

Raising a baby raptor is no easy task. Staff members became his surrogate parents, feeding him several times a day.

He spent the first few weeks of his life in our bird nursery allowing us to monitor his progress and growth.

When he was feeding on his own and big enough to walk around, he was moved outside to his own enclosure.

His care and feeding was then the responsibility of our volunteers who wore a sheet when they entered his enclosure to keep him from becoming habituated.

Habituated animals become gradually used to situations they would normally steer away from. This type of behavior is dangerous for both humans and the animal.

If an animal becomes too used to people or depends on them for food they could become nuisances or dangerous to humans and in turn jeopardizing the animal itself.

It is very important that the animals at our Wildlife Center do not become habituated, so they can return to the wild and be active members of their population.

Our staff and volunteers did a great job with this little owl. He acted just like a wild barn owl should by showing threat displays and flying around when people entered his enclosure.

After 87 days in our care and weighing in at 1.2 pounds, he was deemed ready for release.

Just after sunset on September 25th, he was returned to an area near the horse arena where he hatched. When we left him he was perched in a small tree waiting to hunt under the shadow of night.

Watch his first few moments of freedom:

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Join us on the frontline of wildlife care and rehabilitation - volunteer at PAWS.

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By Jen Mannas, Naturalist

We've received quite a few patients at the Wildlife Center this summer who've been injured by being struck by vehicles. One such case was a bald eagle brought to us back in July.

Since bald eagles are opportunistic foragers they take advantage of whatever prey species are available. In most regions of the country fish is their main source of food but they will prey on small mammals and birds.


They're also scavengers who sometimes feed on carrion on the side of the road, making them susceptible to being hit by vehicles.

That is what landed this eagle in our wildlife hospital, the only wildlife rehabilitation center in Washington State equipped with immediate and continual veterinary expertise and services. 

He was found on the side of the road and brought to us at PAWS. He was mildly dehydrated, anemic, weak, and had a mild wing droop. But unlike other patients hit by vehicles, he did not have any broken bones.

Luckily for him this meant his road to recovery would not be as difficult.

He was kept in our ward under observation for four days, where he proved he could eat on his own, before moving outside to a small raptor enclosure.

As his anemia improved and he regained strength he was ready to move to our large flight pen. He spent the remainder of his time in the flight pen, flying between perches and gaining the strength he'd need to catch prey when he became wild once again.


Well, his day finally came on September 12th when he was transported to the south side of Lake Sammamish and released with the help of the Washington State Parks Department.

After leaving his carrier he did a victory circle above our heads before flying off into the distance. Another inspiring and happy day in the life of PAWS Wildlife Center!

Join us on the frontline of wildlife care and rehabilitation - volunteer at PAWS.

Make a donation and help us continue providing a safe haven for wildlife at PAWS.

Found a wild animal? Find out what to do and how PAWS can help.

By Caitlin Soden, Wildlife Volunteer Program Manager

I'm so excited to feature Dale Ripley for the first edition of our new Volunteer Spotlight blog series! A retired oceanographic engineer, Dale has been a volunteer at PAWS Wildlife Center for almost three years and he's an invaluable member of our team.

#1 Wildlife, Dale Ripley Sept 16 2014

Feeding squirrels or building new and improved animals enclosures, you never know where you’ll find Dale but you do know he’ll be hard at work while still managing to keep the wildlife staff and volunteers enthralled and entertained by countless stories of his many trips around the world.

I recently sat down with Dale to talk about his experiences as a Wildlife Center volunteer. Here’s what he had to say:

How did come to volunteer for the PAWS Wildlife Center?
I was initially interested in the PAWS Companion Animal Shelter where I could learn about different breeds of dog before I adopted one of my own. I attended a New Volunteer Orientation, learned about the Wildlife Center and that was that.

What was your first impression when you came to the Wildlife Center?
Abject Fear!! As an engineer, I was used to working with tools and instruments and suddenly I was being asked to work with live animals. I remember being a bit overwhelmed by the complexity of it all but the staff reassured me it would all get easier eventually. And it did!

What’s it like to be a Wildlife Center volunteer?
Very rewarding! It’s cliché but true is true. We all come here to help animals. They can’t do it on their own so someone’s got to do it.

What have you learned as a Wildlife Center volunteer that you wish other people knew?
Not every animal you see on the ground needs help and there are a ton of resources out there to help you know when they do. Bottom line… call us here at the Wildlife Center so we can help.

With so many wonderful organizations to choose from why do you continue to support PAWS?
I got hooked my first day!


Is there anyone specific that has influenced your decision to continue volunteering?
Everyone! The staff and volunteers at the Wildlife Center are fantastic and easy to work with. Everyone is here for the same reason; we want to help animals. That makes it easy to overlook differences.

How does volunteering at the Wildlife Center make you feel?

What is the most fun you’ve had at the PAWS Wildlife Center?
Catching squirrels up for release back into the wild. Four adults, 12 squirrels… it was a battle of wits!

What do you do when you aren’t volunteering?
Woodworking, watersports…I used to be a SCUBA diver and now I love to snorkel in Puget Sound.

What might someone be surprised to learn about you?
How old I am! 66!

Thank you for everything you do! Oh, and Dale, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Inspired by Dale? Become a PAWS volunteer today and help keep Washington State wildlife thriving!
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Find out more about wildlife rehabilitation at PAWS.

By Jen Mannas, Naturalist

Over the past few weeks we have received some special patients at PAWS Wildlife Center, baby Northern Flying Squirrels.


You may not even be aware that these fuzzy little creatures live in Washington. They are rarely seen due to being strictly nocturnal and arboreal (they live in trees).

There are two species and two subspecies of flying squirrels found in the United States. The species that inhabits Washington is the Northern Flying Squirrel. This species can be found throughout most of the northern part of North America, Canada and as far east as North Carolina.

The Southern Flying Squirrel can be found in the eastern US and Mexico. The two subspecies of flying squirrel live in the Appalachians and are endangered due to habitat loss.

Flying squirrels don’t actually fly like bats or birds do; instead they are specialized gliders. They are able to glide due to a special membrane that connects their front and back legs.

To get from one tree to another the flying squirrel will launch itself off of a high branch, spread out its limbs and use its legs to steer and its tail as a brake. The average distance a flying squirrel can cover in one glide is 65 feet but they can take long glides of over 250 feet. Pretty impressive don’t you think?

Like other squirrel species, flying squirrels live on a diet of acorns, fruit, buds, sap, insects and bird eggs. But what separates them from the other squirrels is a large portion of their diet is lichens and fungi, making them an important disperser of fungal spores.


Flying squirrels like to nest in spruce, fir, hemlock, and beech maple trees. They use their nests for raising young in the spring and summer and as a den in the winter. Unlike other mammals, flying squirrels do not hibernate in the winter and will even share their nests with their extended family to keep warm.

The flying squirrel babies we have at PAWS came to us after falling from their nests, and are being cared for by our staff in the small mammal nursery. They will be cared for here and released in a few weeks, back to where they came from, in hopes they can be reunited with their family groups.

Flying squirrel fun fact: Flying squirrels have the ability to glide across four-lane highways without touching the ground!

Join us on the frontline of wildlife care and rehabilitation - volunteer at PAWS Wildlife Center.

Make a donation and help us continue providing a safe haven for wildlife at PAWS.

By Jen Mannas, Naturalist

“It was the most touching release I have ever done” said Noeleen Stewart, a PAWS staff member. What started out just being a typical hawk release ended up being an event to remember.

At the end of July a rare patient came through the doors at the Wildlife Center; a Cooper’s hawk chick. The chick was found sitting beside a road, estimated to be just a few weeks old and was a female.

Cooper's Hawk 142164 Intake 07282014 JM

On initial examination by our rehabilitation and veterinarian teams, the chick was found to be in good condition despite some mild dehydration. She spent the first few days in our ward under observation to determine whether she could eat on her own, which she could.

She was then moved to one of our outside enclosures with another Cooper’s hawk. There she spent time taking short flights and strengthening her wings. After 33 days in our care she was deemed ready for release.

After speaking to a researcher from the Falcon Research Group we decided to try and release her where she was found; but first we needed to scout out the area for any hawk activity.

As Noeleen was departing PAWS with the hawk, the researcher arrived near the hawk’s point of origin. He started searching and listening for other Cooper’s hawks, hoping that some of the other fledglings or the parents of this little hawk were still near the nest site. He was in luck. Finally, he heard some Cooper’s hawks amongst the trees and knew he was in the right place.

Shortly thereafter Noeleen arrived with the young hawk; she was outfitted with research leg bands for identification and was quickly released. Within seconds of her flying away one of her siblings joined her and landed in a tree next to her. A few seconds later another sibling joined them and all three could be seen in the same tree calling to each other. It was definitely an experience to remember, watching these three hawks reunited again.

It is always important that we release wildlife close to their point of origin. The animals we receive may already have an established territory or like in this case have family nearby. Thanks to this collaboration a family of hawks was reunited and the Falcon Research Group will be able to monitor the released hawk in the future and let us know if she has a nest of her own someday.

Join us on the frontline of wildlife care and rehabilitation - volunteer at PAWS Wildlife Center.

Make a donation and help us continue providing a safe haven for wildlife at PAWS.

Walk for the animals and help thousands of wild and companion animals receive the care they need at PAWS in the coming year. Join us at PAWSwalk on September 6, 2014.

By Jen Mannas, Naturalist

July 1st marked the arrival of our first Harbor seal pup of the season at PAWS.

This young pup, who was likely abandoned, was rescued from jagged rocks above the tide line in West Seattle. A visitor to the area noticed a small seal pup wedged in the rocks and called the Seal Sitters. After they assessed the pup’s condition from afar and spoke with Biologists at National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) the pup was rescued and brought to us at the Wildlife Center.


On arrival the pup was assessed by our rehabilitators and veterinarian team. He was thin, dehydrated and had minor abrasions on his chin and right front flipper. He spent his first few weeks inside where staff members fed him several times a day.

Once he was big enough, he was moved outside into a pool fit for a seal, with a haul out where he spent time sunning on warm days and foliage for enrichment.

After 54 days in our care and some help from the Coast Guard Auxiliary this pup was released near a known harbor seal haul out. He could be seen swimming amongst other seals on our way back to the harbor.

June through August is seal pupping season in the Seattle area. Throughout the summer and into the fall you may see harbor seal pups on the beach alone. This is completely natural as pups spend time alone while their mothers are away foraging and often these pups do not need help.

Like all marine mammals Harbor seals are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and their protection is managed by the National Marine Fisheries Service, a division of NOAA. If you find a seal pup do not touch it. Doing so can be harmful to the animal and it is illegal as it violates the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

If you believe the pup has been unattended for more than 48 hours, looks injured, or is being harassed by someone call the Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 1-800-853-1964.

Make a donation and help us continue providing a safe haven for wildlife at PAWS.

Walk for the animals and help thousands of wild and companion animals receive the care they need at PAWS in the coming year. Join us at PAWSwalk on September 6, 2014.

By Kellie Benz, PAWS Staff

When you see a vista like the one PAWS staff arrived at yesterday it’s hard to imagine wanting to leave. For the release of a PAWS patient that we've come to know as American Black Bear 2014-1317, we hope she agrees!


A wildlife release is the best part of a PAWS patient story, however bittersweet, but always rewarding.

This bear’s homebound journey started the night before when PAWS Veterinarians sedated her for her final exam. Once cleared for departure, PAWS staff performed one last task, a weigh in. Final tally, a healthy 151lbs. Good to go!

Once officers from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) arrived to fetch her, PAWS staff and volunteers carried her to her waiting enclosure (pictured, right). There she would sleep off the sedation medication overnight and be ready for the trip north by morning.

At 10am yesterday, PAWS staff and WDFW officers met along Highway 2 and convoyed into the woods, hauling the now wide awake bear up jagged roads and deep into the landscape she will call home.

The story of her recovery and release aired on KOMO TV 4 last night, and their article was posted with more pictures of the quick seconds it took to release American Black Bear 2014-1317. View their photo gallery here.


It’s been a very busy summer here at PAWS, with many of the now recuperated wildlife being returned to the ecosystem where they belong.

It's thanks to donors and PAWSWalkers that PAWS was able to save this one very lucky bear - as well as all of the animals in our care this summer - and return each to Washington’s gorgeous wilderness.

It's not too late to help us save animals year round, sign up for PAWSwalk today.

American Black Bear 2014-1317 was one of many species who get a second chance thanks to PAWS Donors. Click here and help us help animals.

PAWS Wildlife always needs dedicated volunteers – find out how you can help.

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By Jen Mannas, Naturalist

It’s baby squirrel season again at the Wildlife Center, and as things are winding down in the baby bird nursery they're picking up in the small mammal nursery.


The center is packed full of baby Eastern Gray Squirrels, a few Douglas Squirrels, and the staff and volunteers who have become their surrogate parents.

This is the second round of baby squirrels this year; the first round was back in April. This is because Gray Squirrels breed twice a year if food availability is high.

Squirrels eat mushrooms, flowers, plant shoots and even caterpillars but their preferred food source is mast. Mast is nuts from forest trees such as oaks, beeches and hickories, that are high in fat calories. This is what you typically see a squirrel busily burying in the ground.

The reason squirrels bury their food is because they do not hibernate like other mammals. Instead, they leave food caches around that they will visit again during the winter months.

Now, you may be wondering, “How in the world do squirrels remember where they hide their food?”. Well, squirrels have a very accurate spatial memory and they use land markers and scent to help them find their buried caches. This also helps with seed dispersal and germination, since the caches the squirrels do not eat will start to grow into trees.

Squirrels try to be very secretive when burying their caches so other animals won’t dig them up. If a squirrel feels like it is being watched it will pretend to bury its food. The squirrel will go through the motions of digging a hole, placing the object, and burying it but instead it will actually hide the food in its mouth to save and bury somewhere else.

Squirrel nests are usually made of leaves and are high up in the trees. When baby squirrels are born their eyes are closed and they are hairless. They typically stay in the nest for six weeks but sometimes they fall or are pushed out; that is the main reason they're brought to us here at PAWS Wildlife Center.


The squirrels we currently have are at different stages of development and require food at different increments of time throughout the day. Our staff and volunteers work diligently to help these babies grow into healthy adults so they can be released and become functioning members of their population once again.

Help us on the wildlife rehabilitation frontline. Become a volunteer.

Make a donation and help us continue providing a safe haven for wildlife.

Walk for the animals and help thousands of wild and companion animals receive the care they need at PAWS in the coming year. Sign up for PAWSwalk on September 6, 2014.